Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Lesbos (Λέσβος) is a prefecture of Greece consisting of a number of islands in the Aegean Sea, and part of the North Aegean periphery subdivision. In modern Greece, the island's name is pronounced and usually transliterated Lesvos and its inhabitants are thus called Lesvonians or Lesviots (rather than "Lesbians").
"Lesbos" or "Lesvos" is also the name of the prefecture's main island, also called Mytilene, and lying just off the coast of Turkey. The second largest island is Lemnos, to the northwest, lying nearer the nothern part of the Greek mainland. Principal towns on the main island are Mytilene (the capital), Kalloni, Mithymna, Plomari, Agiassos, Petra. On the south coast of Lesbos is the pretty coastal town of Plomari, where it is said that the finest ouzo in the world is made to this day in traditional copper stills. At the western tip of the island is the small fishing village of Sigri, close to which is the world's largest petrified forest, estimated to be about twenty million years old.
The island has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. It is first mentioned in Hittite records as Lazpa. Other ancient names are: Lassia, Imerti, Aegira, Issa, Mytonis, and Les-Ba. Lesbos was a great center of civilization in the 6th century BCE, and was included among the Aeolian Greek settlements; it was home to the poets Sappho and Alcaeus. Aristotle and Epicurus both also spent some time there.
In 477 BCE, Lesvos joined the Delian League, an alliance of Greeks headed by Athens, against the Persians. In 428 BCE, Lesbos rose up against the Athenian Empire. However, this revolt was unsuccessfuly and Lesbos remained in Athenian hands until Lysander of Sparta conquered the island in 405 BCE.
During the medieval period Lesbos was ruled by the Gattilusio family from 1355. The last of the Gattilusio Princes of Lesbos, Niccolo of Lesbos, was defeated by Mehmed II, who almost completely demolished Mytilene and conquered the island for the Ottoman Empire in 1462.
The word "lesbian" is derived from the island's name, after the poet Sappho of Lesbos, who wrote about love between women. In recent years this has often made Lesbos the destination of cruises and other vacations for lesbians, despite of the disapproval of conservative Lesviot authorities, with some cruise ships being denied permission to dock.
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